So Facebook is very much turning into the Myspace of the middle classes. I’ve set up a profile, I’ve played about a bit, I added a few personal friends and colleagues, and business friends: now what? I’m frozen with indecision.
You see, I don’t mind talking to people in the communal Facebook groups that spring up and then wither away, but I’m deeply uncomfortable with the friend network. The trouble is, my real self, the self that’s tied to my real name, the one that I feel you’re supposed to communicate on Facebook, is deeply fragmented. If I add a new networking colleague on Facebook, what do I want them to see on my profile page? Do they need to know my relationship status? Damnit, do I actually want them to know what music I like listening to, or what books I’m really reading?
I tinker over the Interests section, and I hesitate. Listening to Gotan Project and Regina Spektor, probably acceptable anywhere; my sekrit love for Justin Timberlake and Rufus Wainwright might need a bit more explaining. In other words, my profile page, my interests and my status line all require me to perform, but what persona should I perform?
In the interests of ensuring acceptability to all my possible friends, what you currently get on my Facebook profile is the neat-and-tidy, acceptable anywhere, airbrushed version of me.
Weirdly, it’s actually more airbrushed than this blog. Strange. In one way, this blog would seem far more risky, because it’s entirely public compared to a locked-off Facebook profile. Personally, I think the difference is this that particular version (AMacleod2.1, perhaps) is one moderately coherent persona performed for a single, broad audience. In other words, I know who I am and how to behave with this particular group, even if you are invisible and very likely infinitesimal.
So I think Facebook works well if you have one overarching persona – social you, or family you, or business networking you – operating on a single level of a hierarchy. It becomes much more complicated if you’re looked up by your boss, your networking group, your kids’ friends’ parents, your old boyfriends, your World of Warcraft chums – oh, you get the picture. Beyond college, our friendship networks turn into Venn diagrams, not neat lines and nodes. The different parts of our network have different meaning and they elicit different performances from us. The developers of social networking applications assume a level playing field.
In trying to find a decent social network aggregator, for example, I find that the applications are good at linking up all the single versions of you-in-different-formats: your Facebook, your LinkedIn, your Twitter, your delicious; but they’re very poor at helping you keep track of your alternative personas spread across five different email addresses and about 10 platforms. All we can hope is that the developers’ lives eventually get as complicated as mine.
Thoughts? Experiences? Wise grizzled experience on negotiating Facebook? You can reply here or hop over to my Livejournal mirror site.